‘On the trash heap’
Weekend, October 27 29, 2017 Prosecutors say cases tossed over backlog and delays
Alberta prosecutors say court backlogs and delays mean they are tossing criminal cases “on the trash heap.’’
Senior Calgary prosecutor Jonathan Hak told court this week the system is overloaded with criminal cases and “there’s not a blessed thing the Crown can do about that.’’
“What the Crown is doing is taking cases that are perfectly prosecutable and we’re just tossing them on the trash heap. We’re saying these aren’t important enough,’’ Hak said during a hearing into whether a woman’s conviction in her son’s death should be overturned due to unreasonable delay.
Focusing on some cases at the expense of others “does a disservice to the people involved,’’ he said.
Hak said the Crown has been ordered to streamline cases and the outcome has been unsatisfactory.
The judge hearing the woman’s case noted Canada has always grappled with delayed trials.
The Supreme Court issued the so-called Jordan decision last summer. It set out a frame- work to determine whether a criminal trial has been unreasonably delayed and cited a “culture of complacency’’ for contributing to the problem.
The ruling said anyone charged with an offence has the right to have the case tried within a reasonable amount of time — 18 months for provincial courts and 30 months for superior courts.
There are exceptions, and the ruling came with a transitional measure for cases already in the system. The dissenting minority on the high court argued the new time limits could lead to thousands of prosecutions being tossed out.
Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said prosecutors have been urged to focus on cases that involve serious or violent crimes, but she added that dropping a case is a last resort.
Rather, she said, the intent is to try to resolve less urgent cases early on. With Calgary’s new city council set to begin making budget decisions next month, the Calgary Police Commission (CPC) and Calgary Police Service (CPS) are reaffirming their need for a budget increase. At the CPC meeting on Tuesday, chair Brian Thiessen said their finance and audit committee has reviewed the service’s budgetary needs, and he believes the commission’s ask for a $14.3 million is on par.
“We are confident that city council understands just how important those budget requests are,” he said.
Thiessen said during the municipal election that the CPC provided a budget briefing note to all candidates and in turn, he heard support from mayoral and councilor candidates.
Chief Roger Chaffin said it’s incredibly important the service sees the increase — after three flat budget years and a hiring freeze this year — because every program they’re currently running or starting is contingent on the budget. “That means everything begins to stop — programs start to stall…our hiring,” he said. “We’re simply at the point where we need to understand long-term what we’re going to look.”
Jyoti Gondek, newly minted city councilor for Ward 3, said after a meeting with the CPC during her campaign and from speaking to residents, she completely understands why they’re asking for more money.
Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley speaks during a news conference September 15.
CPC chair Brian Thiessen